Lighting lives

Entrepreneurs rent solar powered CFL lights to small vendors, making it easier for the latter to ply their trade in the evenings too.

The markets of Madivala, Nelamangala, Banashankari and Naganathapura wear a new look these days. Buying vegetables, fruits and other home needs in the evenings has become easier now, thanks to the CFL bulbs that have replaced petromax lanterns in these places. They have illuminated smiles on the vendors’ faces too.

Sarojamani, a small vendor for the last 17 years recalls that earlier the vendors had to either scramble for a place below the streetlight or spend on costly and low illuminating light sources or pack up their business by sunset. She used to spend more than Rs 900 per month for gas lights, and even then the customers would turn away from her wares due to the poor illumination of the gas lights.

Kantaraju, another vendor shifted from petromax lanterns due to high cost of kerosene, maintenance problems and unsafe nature of the lanterns.

Customers visiting the busy market on Hosa Road (on the way to Naganathapura), off Hosur Road are surprised to see the whole surrounding lit up by CFL bulbs. People can now judge the freshness of vegetables, fruits and flowers under the bright lights. It was a different story just two years back. The vendors found themselves battling darkness every night, with no safe and reliable alternatives in sight. It all changed a year back when Ramesh distributed “Dari deepa” to these vendors.

Ramesh provides battery operated CFL lights to these vendors at a rate of Rs. 20 per light every evening from 6 PM to 10 PM. He takes the batteries back in the night and recharges them for use the next day. Around 80 people are his customers from the surrounding areas.

Ramesh is not the only one in this business. Vijaykumar of Bommanahalli was the first entrepreneur to distribute lights and batteries to the street vendors in Bommanahalli and Madiwala. The enterprise which started off on a small scale has grown into a huge business. Other entrepreneurs like Anand, Srinivas and Ramesh worked under him and, with the experience gained, they are now successfully operating similar businesses in Nelamangala, Banashankari and Naganathapura respectively.

This business idea has been developed by an NGO, S3IDF (Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund), a Section 25 Company based in Bangalore. S3IDF implemented its first such project in Kundapur, Udupi district, a few years back.

"S3IDF aims at providing basic infrastructure services to people. We provide these services by fostering self-employing small scale businesses, garnering financial assistance from banks for the entrepreneurs and linking them to appropriate technology suppliers. Providing eco-friendly, hassle-free and cost-effective lights to street vendors is one of the projects that we have taken up. Our purpose is to motivate local people to start small businesses/ enterprises by using local resources", says Vipula Sharma, who is the Chief Financial Officer and acting CEO of S3IDF in Bangalore.

Though the government is trying to encourage new entrepreneurs and small scale enterprises, it is not new that banks are hesitant to give financial assistance to them. As a result, S3IDF has provided partial guarantee to enable some of its entrepreneurs to get loans from banks. "But this trend should go," feels development officer Arpana Udupa. "There are a number of young aspirant entrepreneurs amidst us. However, there is hardly any encouragement for them," she adds.

"When I approached banks for the financing of this business, they hesitated. I initially invested Rs. 20,000 only, while S3IDF loaned the rest of the amount,” says Ramesh who has brought revolution of lights in Naganathapura.

“Entrepreneurs like Ramesh are aplenty, but they are rarely recognised. Self employment is not generated by huge industries or outlets alone, small efforts also pay good results,” says Arpana.

Take the example of “dari deepa”. One system of CFL bulb, battery and associated accessories costs just Rs. 2,500. This is a one-time investment. If you get a rent of Rs. 20 per light per day, 100 lights bring an income of Rs. 2000 daily, enough to pay for the maintenance cost (including electricity bill of Rs. 500-600 per month for charging the batteries) and loan repayment, leaving sufficient as profit. 

These lights have given a new charge to the lives of the vendors as well. "I have been selling snacks for the last 6 years.  These lights have improved my business," says Babu, a vendor in Naganathpura, happily.

"I used to spend Rs. 70 a day for petromax lantern. Sometimes when kerosene was scarce, I had to go without lights. The lantern would also give in during business hours and I would have to repair it, neglecting my transactions. These bulbs are hasslefree," exclaims Shafi, who travels all the way from Mysore.

As far as possible, S3IDF does not provide direct financial assistance to anybody.  "Entrepreneurs should learn to maintain accounts and repay loans properly. If it is a loan from the bank, on time repayment and maintenance of bank account makes these small time entrepreneurs bankable, enabling them to deal with banks directly without our assistance," opines Nataraj, Project Officer at S3IDF.

S3IDF has taken up projects like providing small flour mills, efficient stoves for silk reeling, et cetera. But it has focused on extending "dari deepa" to more areas.

Interested may contact:
Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund (S3IDF),# 456A-1, 9th Cross
J P Nagar, 2nd Phase, Bangalore – 560078

Telefax: 26594880  Phone: 65902558
For more details, visit


  1. Pushpa Achanta says:

    A bright idea!

  2. raj chandra.r says:

    ‘@ 365*20= Rs.7300, it is a clever fraud by a very enterprising mind. At 60% of this cost one can get a solar powered light all for themselves. It means after 220 days it can becomes fully paid up and free there after! It is also a reflection of the failure of organizations like KREDL in not reaching out to the urban poor, though spending crores in subsidy from MNES every year.

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